The latest elite-college admissions scandal rests on a foundation of pure silliness; … people with rich, famous, well-connected parents are the ones who least need the imprimatur of a famous college to speed them through life. Yet these same people are the ones with the means to indulge the status obsession that plagues most of us. Let’s not think of Felicity Huffman et al. as unusual: Everybody with the means to steer their kids into top-drawer colleges is thinking about how to game the system. This is because an elite-college degree isn’t an instrument or a tool; it doesn’t have to lead to anything. It’s a status symbol in itself. Yale is Louis Vuitton is Piaget is Mercedes.
Having a Yale diploma in the back of my closet hasn’t directly benefited me in any way, as far as I can tell. But. The mention of Yale, in certain quarters, generates a sharp intake of breath. Or an “Oooh” of sycophancy. Or a sullen grumble and icy stare from those recalling how their own bid to enter the portals of Yale was rebuked by the admissions committee. If your goal is to enhance your sense of superiority over your fellow man, a Yale education is an excellent way to do that. Unlike a Porsche or a Cartier, it is with you always. You can’t lose it and it can’t be stolen.